Realising the benefits of Australia’s world-class research system requires translation of its outputs into economic and societal benefits. The effective translation of research will be at the core of Australia’s future
competitiveness and prosperity.
In mid-2014 a group of ATSE Fellows, concerned by the recently published data which showed that Australia was ranking bottom of the OECD when it came to collaboration between public and private sector researchers, set up a working party to develop a metric which would measure collaboration between university researchers and industry and other end users of their research. The group was alarmed by reports that the Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) exercise, while very desirable in its own right, was having the unintended effect of discouraging university-researcher collaboration with industry and other end users. The ATSE proposal was to use the income received from industry and other research end users to support research collaboration plus commercialisation income as the basis for an engagement metric. The proposal was welcomed in university, industry and government circles.
From the outset, it was felt that it was very important that any metric developed had to be applicable and useful for the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Accordingly, the steering committee membership for this project was expanded to include representatives of the four Learned Academies (Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, and Technology and Engineering), the Australian Research Council (ARC), senior researchers from the HASS, STEM and medical and health sciences (MHS) fields, and senior representatives of the key Commonwealth Departments (Education & Training and Industry, Innovation & Science). The project was named ‘Research Engagement for Australia’ (REA).
In March 2015, a report on the development of the REA Metrics was prepared by the Steering Committee and submitted to the Department of Education and Training (the ‘REA Proposal’). This report outlined how the REA Metrics provided a measure of research engagement and collaboration as a forward proxy of impact. The REA rating is intended to visibly stand alongside the existing ERA measurement of research excellence – bringing a second dimension to the assessment of Australia’s research.
Subsequently, ATSE received funding from the South Australian and Queensland Governments to conduct a pilot study of the ATSE engagement metrics (REA) with the universities in the two States – a total of eleven universities. This pilot study is described in greater detail in the technical report on this page, essentially representing a beta test of the ATSE engagement metrics.
The REA Pilot confirmed that REA is a cost-effective and robust measure of research engagement: universities were able to participate in the data provisions with minimal resourcing burdens, making use of the existing systems in support of other internal and external reporting requirements such as ERA and HERDC. The results of the REA Pilot, provided to universities, provided an intuitive and believable method of measuring research engagement. Strong REA performance was related to ongoing research engagement activities within the university and broadly accorded with the expectations of the university in terms of their perceived areas of strong research engagement. In addition, the REA Pilot confirmed earlier findings that REA measures aspects of research activity that are not captured through existing measures, such as ERA.
Full details are contained in the Summary Report (2016), Pilot Report (2016) and the REA Proposal (2015).
Enhancing Australia's prosperity through technology and innovation